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Ukraine war latest: 12 Russian oil refineries reportedly hit in recent attacks by Ukraine

by The Kyiv Independent news desk March 18, 2024 12:15 AM 7 min read
Illustrative photo of flames come out of the tower of an oil refinery plant. (Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Key developments on March 17:

  • Media: 12 Russian oil refineries successfully hit in recent attacks by Ukraine
  • Putin ‘wins’ rigged Russian election, preliminary results show
  • 1 killed, 6 injured, including child, in Russian attack on Mykolaiv
  • Shoigu calls for better Navy defense in visit to Black Sea Fleet, Russian Defense Ministry says
  • Drone reportedly hits military base in Russian-controlled Transnistria.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) drones have recently successfully attacked 12 oil refineries in Russia, a source told Ukrainska Pravda, including an overnight attack on March 17 of an oil refinery in Slavyansk-on-Kuban in Krasnodar Krai.

The SBU carried out the most recent attack together with Special Operations Forces and the Unmanned Systems Forces, according to the source.

Residents of Slavyansk-on-Kuban reported hearing explosions in the town and said that a local factory was on fire, according to the Russian Telegram news channel Baza.

At least one refinery worker was killed, Baza and Russian news outlets claimed.

Russian media reported that the fire was most likely caused by a Ukrainian drone strike. Locals told the news channel Ostorozhno that a group of over five drones hit the facility.

In the past weeks, Ukrainian forces have launched a series of drone strikes aimed at damaging Russia's oil industry. Ukraine has hit oil refineries in Samara, Ryazan, Kaluga, Nizhny Novgorod, and Leningrad oblasts.

The targeted facilities account for about 12% of Russia's oil-processing capacity, Bloomberg reported on March 14.

Whether afraid or indifferent, regular Russians enable autocracy
For global audiences watching Moscow’s tightly-choreographed “election-style event” this weekend, Russia appears to be a country transformed – a militarized society where dissent is simply no longer tolerated. But the truth is that in the two years since the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion…

Putin ‘wins’ rigged Russian election, preliminary results show

Russian authorities on March 15-17 held a presidential election in two countries – Russia and the regions of Ukraine occupied by the Kremlin. The voting was neither free nor fair, with the result known in advance.

According to preliminary data, Vladimir Putin gained his 87% of the vote, a number that came hardly as a surprise.

Russia's presidential election ended on March 17, with the state-controlled news agency Interfax reporting over 70% voter turnout as of 3 p.m. local time in Moscow.

In what the Russian opposition called a symbolic protest against Putin, thousands of Russians showed up at the polling stations at the pre-agreed time, at noon on March 17.

This "peaceful protest," promoted by late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was meant to demonstrate how many Russians were ready to vote against Putin. After showing up at the same time, those opposing Putin were supposed to proceed to vote for any other candidate – or to ruin the ballot.

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Alexei Navalny, called on Russians to vote midday on March 17 in what she described as a symbolic protest against Putin.

“There are many people around you who are anti-Putin and anti-war, and if we come at the same time, our anti-Putin voice will be much louder," Navalnaya, who lined up in queues at the Russian Embassy in Berlin to vote, said in a video published on March 13.

Photos and videos of Russians lining up in long queues to attend a local polling station were published by Russian independent media outlet Meduza. It reported that the first actions took place in the Far East and then in Siberia and the Urals.

In the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, the mayor's office claimed it "strengthened security measures" due to what it claimed as "provocative actions aimed at destabilizing the work of election commissions."

But the protest ended without achieving results or even a reaction from the Kremlin. According to OVD-Info human rights monitoring group, over 75 people protesting were arrested across 17 Russian cities at 4:21 p.m. local time.

Over the course of Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine, Moscow intensified its crackdown on anti-war dissidents in Russia, effectively killing any hopes for a revolution that would overthrow the leadership. Multiple polls, such as the recent one conducted by the Russian independent polling organization, the Levada Center, also suggested that many Russians support the war in Ukraine.

Putin, who has ruled Russia since 2000, is seeking a fifth term as president. The win will put him in power until 2030.

In the presidential election, Putin is up against three other contenders who all stood no realistic chance of winning.

Any credible political rivals such as Boris Nadezhdin have been prevented from standing or, in the case of Navalny, imprisoned before dying while in detention.

Russia held a rigged vote in 2020 to approve constitutional amendments allowing Putin to run for two more presidential terms after his current one expires in 2024.

The vote effectively made Putin, who has been in power since 1999, a dictator for life.

Putin ‘wins’ rigged Russian election; Ukrainians in occupied territories vote at gunpoint
Russian authorities on March 15-17 held a presidential election in two countries – Russia and the regions of Ukraine brutally occupied by the Kremlin. The voting was neither free nor fair, with the result known in advance. In the occupied areas, voting was held illegally at gunpoint. In Russia, th…

1 killed, 6 injured, including child, in Russian attack on Mykolaiv

One person was killed and six were injured, including a child, in a Russian missile attack on Mykolaiv on March 17, according to the Interior Ministry.

Russian forces attacked the southern city of Mykolaiv twice with missiles earlier in the day. Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych said over 10 multistory buildings and 50 private houses suffered damages, as well as many cars.

The Interior Ministry did not provide details on the attack, only reporting that a person had died in the hospital and that the number of wounded had increased.

Following the attack, regional governor Vitalii Kim said Russia carried out the attack from the same place as its previous strike against the major city of Odesa just 150 kilometers westward on March 15, where 21 were killed and more than 70 were wounded.

Russian forces had launched the March 15 strike using Iskander-M ballistic missiles from occupied Crimea, Ukraine's Southern Defense Forces said.

Over the past few weeks, Russia has ramped up its deadly attacks against civilians, especially in the south, east, and north of Ukraine.

5 children killed in single attack: ‘We should never forget what Russia did’
Five Ukrainian children were sleeping peacefully in their beds on March 2 when Russia launched the overnight drone attack against their hometown of Odesa that took their lives. Some came from different families but lived in the same apartment building in the southern Ukrainian port city. Instead o…

Drone reportedly hits military base in Russian-controlled Transnistria

A drone hit a military base in Transnistria, the Russian-controlled region of Moldova, local Telegram channel "Pervyi Prydnestrovskyi" claimed on March 17.

"Today, a fire broke out on the territory of one of the military bases in Tiraspol, as a result of an explosion," it claimed, adding that preliminary data suggested the kamikaze drone had attacked the base.

The Telegram channel also claimed the drone's flight was "detected" north of Tiraspol, near the Ukrainian border.

The Telegram channel also published a video allegedly showing a helicopter being hit by a drone. The Kyiv Independent couldn't independently verify the claim.

Transnistria borders Ukraine's Odesa Oblast and is internationally recognized as part of Moldova. Russian troops have occupied Transnistria since the early 1990s when Russia invaded the region under the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians.

Concerns around Transnistria arose earlier in February after news emerged that local authorities asked Russia for "protection."

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that Moscow would "consider with attention" the appeal of authorities from the Moscow-controlled Moldovan region of Transnistria for "protection."

What danger does Transnistria pose to Ukraine, Moldova?
When there was no mention of Transnistria — Moldova’s Russia-led breakaway region — in Vladimir Putin’s speech on Feb. 29, Moldovans sighed with relief. A day prior, the leaders of the unrecognized breakaway entity, sandwiched between Ukraine and Moldova, had asked Russia for “protection” — a plea…

Shoigu calls for better Navy defense in visit to Black Sea Fleet, Russian Defense Ministry says

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered increased training and more weapons to repel Ukraine's attacks on the Black Sea Fleet, according to a statement by Russia's Defense Ministry on March 17.

"It is necessary to conduct training every day with personnel. Training to repel air attacks and attacks by unmanned boats," Shoigu said, according to the statement on Telegram. He also ordered the installation of additional fire weapons, large-caliber machine-gun rifle systems to destroy Ukrainian drones.

The comments were made during a visit to speak with troops at a Black Sea command post, presumably in Russian-occupied Crimea.

The statement noted that Shoigu also visited Sevastopol in Crimea to inspect the progress of a new military hospital under construction there.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet, whose headquarters is located in Crimea, has been repeatedly struck by Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Attacks include the sinking of the flagship cruiser Moskva in April 2022 and a devastating missile attack on the fleet's headquarters in occupied Crimea that reportedly killed more than 30 officers.

Around 30% of Russia’s Black Sea fleet has been disabled as of early February 2024, according to the Ukrainian military.

Most recently, on March 5, Ukraine's military intelligence reported destroying the Russian patrol ship Sergey Kotov.

According to Ukraine's military intelligence, the Project 22160 patrol ship suffered damage to its stern and on its left and right sides. Sergey Kotov was reportedly located near the Kerch Strait when it was attacked by domestically-produced Magura V5 naval drones.

"The cost of the sunken ship is about $65 million," the agency wrote.

On March 10, Russian news outlets reported that the commander of the Russian Navy had been replaced.

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